In Bamidbar 27:7, Rashi says that the commandment in Bamidbar 36:7 (That daughters who inherit from their father must marry in that tribe) was only for the Generation that entered the land.

The reason (as given in Bamidbar 36) is so that the land that the women inherit not leave the tribe when their sons inherit from them. Since tribal affiliation is paternal, the sons are part of a different tribe, and the land they inherit now becomes part of their tribe's land.

This seems like a legitimate concern that applies to any generation. If so, why was the decree only for the generation that entered the land?

A couple of notes:

1) The Talmud, Bava Basra 120b and Taanis 30b, says that the reason why it was only forbidden to the generation that entered the land is learned out from Bamidbar 36:6], so perhaps it is a Gezerat HaKatuv. (If that's the reason I'll accept it, but it's not much of a reason)

2) The Maharsha (Chidushei Aggadot BB 121A) (Discussing the holiday of the 15th of Av) asks what is the joy of the tribes being able to intermarry, if this could result in lost land. His answer seems to be that men were always allowed to intermarry, since this would not affect inheritance. Now the women were happy that they received the same rights as men, even if it would result in a loss. -- However, this only explains what the celebration was, not why we no longer care about a loss of family land.

  • Are you referring to Rashi on נתן תתן? I don't see Rashi saying that it's only for that generation.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 10:33
  • @Scimonster The gemara is clear that this decree was only for that generation. It's one of the reasons behind Tu Ba'Av. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 13:00
  • Regarding the question itself, the issue was that some "households" within the tribe would lose their portion entirely if women were denied inheritance (see benos tzelophchad). If they were allowed to marry outside their tribe this issue would still exist as a married woman is considered as residing within her spouses domain, and not her father, thus causing inequitable distribution of the land between the tribes. After the final division during Joshua's time, the land was "set," and tribal/household ownership would be retained through the Yovel system. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 13:04
  • 2
    @IsaacKotlicky No. Yovel would not undo this.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 16:07
  • 1
    @DoubleAA You're correct, but I think you misunderstood me. The point was that before the division of the land, it was possible to lose your entire family portion if there were no male heirs without this rule. Afterwards, it would still exist, even though the heirs may be of a different tribe. See Rashi discussing the dual nature of the land division (based upon the number of children, then divided by the number of grandfathers/beis avos). Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 20:35

3 Answers 3


See Rabbeinu Bachya on Bamidbar 36:7

ולא תסב נחלה וגו' ממטה אל מטה אחר. מצוה לשעה קודם שינחלו ישראל הארץ. והיו י"ב שבטים למטה כנגד י"ב שבטים של מעלה, כל שבט ושבט בפני עצמו, ואילו היה שבט זה מוכר נחלתו לאחד משאר השבטים היה בזה ערבוב הכחות, אבל בארץ ישראל שהוא כלל כל הכחות לא הקפיד.

“So that ancestral property will not make the rounds from tribe to another tribe.” This commandment was valid only for the generation of the Israelites entering the land of Canaan at that time (Baba Batra 120). At that time the twelve tribes of the Israelites on terrestrial earth corresponded to their exact counterparts in the celestial spheres (Zohar Bamidbar 118). If one tribe would have sold part of its ancestral territory to another, the result would have been an imbalance of the forces representing the tribes in the celestial regions. Once the people had settled in Eretz Yisrael which is the terrestrial counterpart of the sum total of all these celestial forces of the tribes, this did not matter anymore.

Once everyone received their inheritance and everything was permanently set it didn't matter if it would be transferred later.

Also see the Ramban there for another answer.


I. Why was the decree only for the generation that entered the land?

Baal Hatur Bm.25:5 sites the word (יִנְחָלוּ-inherit) and elaborates that this word is mentioned 3 times in TNH.

  1. Bm.25:5 - according to his inheritance that they shall inherit.

  2. Bm.26:55 - according to the names of their fathers' tribes shall they inherit.

  3. Pr.3:35 - The wise shall inherit honor.

The Tur states in connection to these 3 passages: Regarding that which they shall inherit, shall be according to the names of their father's tribes that they shall inherit, for the land was apportioned to those who went forth from Mizraim and died...

The Gemara in Baba Batra 117a: Rabbi Yonatan says: Eretz Yisrael was divided among those who entered Eretz Yisrael, as it is stated: “Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance” (Bm 26:53). But how do I realize the meaning of the verse: “According to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit” (Bm 26:55)? This teaches that this inheritance is different from all other inheritances in the world, for in all other inheritances in the world, the living inherit from the dead, but here, the dead inherit from the living. {In other words, the portions of land received by those who entered Eretz Yisrael were transferred to their fathers who left Egypt, and then inherited by the current generation, as the Gemara will explain.} 117a

The reason for this nuance in my opinion is for the initial promise to Abraham in (Br.12.7: The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will assign this land to your offspring.” And he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.) Is defining that the offspring of Abraham will inherit the land, the only question is what that "offspring" really mean. This is to some point defined in (Br.21.12: But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.)

It is also important that the language of the Torah throughout the Parasha Masei is Bnei Israel (the males), therefore it can be established that it is critical that the males are the ones that inherited.

Therefore you see that the initial inheritance was not a commandment, but HSM holding his promise to Abraham, Itzhak and Yaakov. But once the inheritance is established and the land is conquered and acquired (as needed to qualify for a possession) then there are specific mitzvot from the Torah on how things now need to be handled in cases of inheritance and possession of the land.

II. Why is a female heiress allowed to marry out of the tribe?

There was never a restriction for marriage out of the tribe, only a one time decree set for the initial inheritance of the land. The reason being, the legitimate plea of the daughters of Zelophehad: "Why should our father lose out because he has no sons" (referencing Baba Batra 117a). In addition, the tribe of Menashe also had a legitimate argument, why should they lose the portion of their tribal land to another tribe when it belongs to them (referencing "offspring according to the names of the fathers' tribes".) And if the daughters marry out, they don't even have the chance to "redeem it" so to say. The solution for the daughters of Zelophehad seems to be infringing on the possession of the Tribe. Therefore, HaKadosh Barkhu put a restriction for these daughters to only marry within the tribe. A seemingly fair compromise to both parties.

The concept of redemption can be see in Ruth 4.4: [I thought I should disclose the matter to you and say: Acquire it in the presence of those seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you are willing to redeem it, redeem! But if you will not redeem, tell me, that I may know. For there is no one to redeem but you, and I come after you.” “I am willing to redeem it,” he replied.]

III. The Maharsha (Chidushei Aggadot BB 121A) (Discussing the holiday of the 15th of Av) asks what is the joy of the tribes being able to intermarry, if this could result in lost land.?

(added from comments:) Take a real life example from sefer Ruth:

Elimelech a rich man with much land lost his life due to his own sins. His possessions transfer to his living sons (his guarantors). Mahlon and Chilion died early due to their own sins, and lost all possessions. They however had no sons and no more brothers to perform Yibum. Their "names" are lost forever since they didn't guard this mitzvah properly of having children. Now since all of Am-Yisrael are guarantors for one another, it trickles down the "family" tree.

The possessions now belong to Naomi, and the family of Elimelech now have the status of potential redeemers. Tov refused to redeem, Boaz the last relative acts as the redeemer and states Ruth 4.10: I also acquire the wife of Machlon as my wife to perpetuate the name of the deceased on his inheritance, that the name no be cut off ... Now what would happen if Boaz also refused or as in the case where the entire tribe doesn't redeem? The real loss are to those to whom the original inheritance belonged to.

Therefore it seems to me that life is more important than land and the purpose of inheritance as the word itself implies is to perpetuate the name of the deceased. Indeed this should be something to celebrate, both in not restricting the daughters from marrying whom they want and the inheritance transferring over to a different tribe. Since all of Am Yisrael are guarantors for one another, it is not that the land was lost, but that the name of the deceased was not cut off from his people, which remains on the possessions that he leaves in this world, in this case land.

  • I'm not sure I understand exactly what you are answering. Are you saying that after the initial splitting of the land (when family had to get the land), there was no problem with losing the land to another tribe, if the family didn't make sure that the female inheritors married within the tribe?
    – Menachem
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 22:04
  • After the land was distributed according to the initial promise from HSM, the land can then be acquired by other tribes without a problem. The mitzvot or redemption then take effect, and if it is not redeemed it is lost forever from their possession. The tribe didn't have to make sure that the female inheritors married within the tribe , I wanted to emphasize that after the initial distribution there was an opportunity for someone within the tribe (closest relative) to redeem the land as opposed to the situation with the daughters of Zelophehad.
    – AZav_nov
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 4:25
  • If I understand correctly, you're saying that someone from the tribe should have married her once she inherited, in order to keep the land in the tribe. Because they didn't, they lose the land. If that's what you're saying, it doesn't answer my question, which was why are we not concerned about the land being lost to the tribe. Also, I'm not sure if the case in Ruth is the same as our case, because there all the relatives had an obligation to do Yibum (or Chalitzah) (and she would have been obligated to marry whichever one agreed), whereas no one is obligated to marry the heiress.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 5:21
  • The case of Ruth has nothing at all to do with Yibum, I was under this impression for a long time. It is instead a case of redemption, see Ramban commentary on TRH on this. If your question was why was this type of decree only for that generation, it is because the language of the initial promise to Abraham( and other places) was that it will go to the males. After the distribution of the land there was never a restriction that heiresses had to marry within the tribe. For the second part, why is she allowed to marry outside of the tribe. See next comment.
    – AZav_nov
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 2:39
  • See Maharsha on Yevamot 77A -- hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37958&pgnum=375 - For an example of a commentary that learns that it was about Yibum with Rus.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 3:14

As an answer one can say like this.

But first one must ask: What is wrong with woman inheriting?
Why was Moshe Rabainu unsure about it?
What is so 'surprising' that the women 'wanted' the land who wouldn't?

The answer is the Erets Yisroel comes at a price. It has a kedusha which has to be kept. Moshe was not sure that women were up to it.
Hashem answered they were, but he added a condition that it must be 'bsoch achaihem', together with their brothers in the tribe with the men, not on their own.

So therefore if they married 'out' they would not be doing it with 'their brothers' since the land they would inherit would pass out of the tribe.

One can say that this stipulation of Hashem only applied when the original kedusha of the land had to be applied. When they conquered it from Canaan.

Once it was holy already, then a daughter could do it on her own without her tribe and therefore no reason not to marry out.

  • With this one can also answer why rashi says that since the women can inherit so can moshe rabainu's children which at first seems to have no connection.
    – cham1
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 11:13
  • Any source for this original thought? Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 12:08
  • No this thought is basically original. Except others also say that moshe rabainu thought women were not up to it.@DannySchoemann I must carry on the connection between moshe rabainu's children and daughters inheriting. See rashi at end of 'vayelech'
    – cham1
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 13:44

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